Sex Determination in India

Female infanticide, or the deliberate killing of baby girls, has long existed in India's patriarchal society. Female foeticide, or the abortion of a female foetus, is a recent practice that emerged in response to the development of prenatal diagnostic tools that could identify the gender of the unborn child.

The choice to undergo an abortion was made as soon as it was learned that the foetus was a female. The women's willingness to abort a female foetus was inferred by undergoing the sex determination tests. The sex determination tests seemed to engage the women into a discussion over whether or not having an unborn female kid makes life not worth living.

What is Sex Determination?

Sex determination, which refers to prenatal or testing the gender of the foetus before birth, is an act of determining the sex of the foetus. The birth of a girl child is not widely celebrated in most of India due to the long-standing priority given to male offspring in the country's traditionally patriarchal society.

After fertilization, when male and female germ cells combine to create a zygote, or single-celled, fertilized egg, the process of sex determination starts. During fertilization, genetic material is transferred from parents to offspring through germ cells. Both sperm and egg are examples of male and female germ cells. The zygote splits into several cells after the egg and sperm cells unite to form an embryo. One sex chromosome from each parent and a portion of each parent's genetic material are combined in the embryo. What biological sex an embryo will eventually develop into is determined by the combination of sex chromosomes it inherits from the germ cells.

Legal Status

Prenatal sex determination was banned in India in 1994, under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 also known as the Prohibition of Sex Selection Act. This act was amended in 2003 and is now called The Pre-Conception and PreNatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of sex selection) Act.

According to the Act, it is forbidden to employ any method to determine a fetus's gender after conception. This was implemented in order to stop the abortion of female foetuses. The act intends to prevent sex-selective abortion, which "has its roots in India's long history of strong patriarchal dominance in all aspects of life," according to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Prenatal sex determination has contributed to an alarming decline in India's child sex ratio, which is another reason it was outlawed.

What does the Law Prohibit?

Following are strictly prohibited by the law −

  • Conducting sex selection − Sex selection cannot be performed on a woman, a man, or both of them using any tissue, embryo, conceptus, fluid, or gametes that are produced from one, the other, or both of them. The law also forbids anybody from pursuing or sponsoring any sex selection techniques on either one or both of them, even a woman's relative or husband.

  • Conducting prenatal diagnostic procedures − Aside from certain approved circumstances, no location, including a registered centre, may be used by anybody to carry out prenatal diagnostic operations or testing. The legislation also forbids anyone from requesting or encouraging the conduct of any prenatal diagnostic procedures or tests on the pregnant lady, including her husband or relatives, with the exception of a few specified circumstances.

  • Determining the sex of the foetus − No one, not even a registered centre, is permitted to perform any prenatal diagnostic techniques to ascertain the sex of a foetus. It would be a crime of foeticide if a sex determination technique led to the abortion of a kid.

  • Communicating the sex of the foetus − No one is allowed to reveal the sex of the foetus to the expectant mother, her family members, or anyone else through words, signs, or any other means.

  • Selling machines for sex determination − It is illegal to sell any ultrasound equipment, imaging equipment, scanners, or other sex-detection equipment to an unregistered person.

  • Advertising sex determination or sex selection facilities − Advertising facilities for prenatal sex determination or preconception sex selection are prohibited. No material concerning these services may be issued, published, distributed, or communicated online or offline.


India should make an effort to increase funding for the Prohibition of Sex Selection Act's enforcement. Despite launching a similar campaign in 2015, the government was not successful. Experts advise the government to tighten detection for illicit clinics and services offered by gangs in addition to fining doctors who do illegal sex determination testing severely.

Most importantly, the government needs to support women's education, give them better employment possibilities, give them more political opportunities, and adopt equal inheritance rules. Men should also receive health education on safe sex practices and knowledge of domestic abuse. One of the most important factors in lowering gender inequality and sexual assault is female education.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Why is Sex determination of foetus banned?

Ans. Because it leads to female foeticide abortion. Once identified, the female foetuses were terminated in India. Female foeticide is a practice that is prohibited yet is nonetheless common in several regions of India.

Q2. What are pre-natal diagnostic techniques or procedures?

Ans. “Pre-natal” means before birth. Pre-natal diagnostic techniques, procedures, or tests are methods used to identify or diagnose any physical or mental disorders in a foetus. Any bodily fluid, blood, cell, or tissue from a pregnant woman or the foetus may be studied using these procedures. The process of ultrasonography uses a visual image to do this.

Q3. How is sex biologically decided?

Ans. In males and women, the sex chromosomes are distinct. Sex chromosomes come in two varieties: "X" and "Y." The XX pair in the sex chromosome is found in the female egg gamete, while the XY pair is found in the male sperm gamete. There are two possible outcomes when fertilisation occurs. The man provides either X or Y, whereas the lady contributes the X portion of the chromosomal pair. It is feminine if the man provides X, and it is male if he contributes Y. The sex of the fertilised egg is thus determined by the male's contribution. The sex of the infant is only determined by the man's sex chromosome.

Updated on: 14-Apr-2023


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